I like to conjure up a particular image when someone asks me if I like dogs. I say, imagine that I'm standing in this dark, foggy alleyway at night. There's a chill in the air and I'm breathing hard because I can feel someone following me. Well, I hear someone shout, "Get her!" and I see, coming through the haze, a pack of dogs dashing toward me. Their eyes glow red, spit slaps their cheeks, and their snarls could make a grown man cry. What do I do? The only thing I can. I fall to my knees with the biggest smile, my hands open wide. "C'mere," I coo. I wait for them, sincerely expecting them to devour my face with kisses instead of... well... actually devouring it. Yes. It's strictly unconditional.
Naturally, I'm also one of the ten percent of people out there who hate movies where dogs die. I think there's even a book inspired by it... called No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Kormen. I haven't read it yet, but this is interesting to note. I can give you numerous stories of how sick I feel when I run into these on-screen or in-pages dog deaths. The most recent one had me so disturbed that I had to pause the movie for at least twenty minutes until I could calm down. That movie is going to collect dust... or forever have that opening scene (opening scene? Come on!) forever skipped. Ugh. Gives me the shivers.
"Do you like dogs?" Isn't that the best opening line for the start of a friendship? Of course, it can come off as a little strange if their are no actual dogs around. Or puppy mugs. Or even a pin. That's how it started out: this one tiny friendship I had in high school. We got off at the same bustop. We lived in the same development. We walked home down the same streets. I couldn't say a word to him because I didn't trust boys who didn't sing video game lyrics at the lunch table and couldn't fathom the satisfaction of playing a Pokemon card battle.
"Do you like dogs?" he asked, as we passed through the gates together. He looked at me, smiling slightly, a little awkward since he knew as well as I did that it was a silly question to ask. But then again, any question used to break the ice of a non-existent acquaintanceship has to be sharp at the edges.
"I love them," I replied, after a pause, and we both smiled and laughed away the strangeness of that beginning.
For the next year, we waited for each other to get off the bus and conquered all kinds of topics on the way to our respective homes. We never hung out any other time and when some one else decided to walk with us we both felt offended that we had been interrupted. There was a meandering repetitiveness to our ambles home. It was nice and we both liked having company since the Florida heat was unforgiving and you needed something to make you forget about the sweat sinking into your mind. And then I went to college.
He's gone now. I mean, really gone. I remember driving home from college on a long weekend and seeing the ribbons flapping in the breeze, tied in some way to every house on the block. Small memories. Small friendships. I do believe they all matter, even if we can't always guess why.
He used to earn money by pet sitting for the neighbors. Always a responsible boy. He would do great things with his golf swing and trusty persona. I don't remember if he had a pet. Or a dog. I'm sure, even if he didn't, he loved them.
The family dog, Misty, is smelling my messenger bag and purse. Her little brown nose picks up the scent of three other dogs. She wags her tail at me but she looks confused. "Don't worry," I tell her, scratching under her ears, "I didn't cheat on you. You're my favorite." She kisses me on the cheek and trots away after hearing the crackle of a bag.
Misty giving her sleepy stink eye to the camera.